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I wish I could say that I have always appreciated the life story God chose for me. Take my childhood in Africa, for example. God in His infinite wisdom called my parents/family to Kenya. I have spent a lot of time wondering of what use my experiences could be: a good party story or outrageous testimonial? How does one make sense of so many random situations and off kilter scenarios? Life in Africa, life in America after Africa – each holding bizarre and embarrassing moments that still remain a mystery to me.


For instance, the time my sister, mom and I were sitting in the Dairy Queen drive-thru placing our orders for three Snickers Blizzards. In Africa we were accustomed to enunciating our words thoroughly so that we could be understood. My sister and I, 11 and 13 years of age, sat mortified in the back seat of the car as we observed the skinny, pot holed faced teen-age kid in the drive-thru window making fun of our mom who was clearly articulating our order for “threeeee Ssss-nick-errrs Bliiiiizzzz-are-dssss.” We wanted to die. And what made it all the more horrifying is that EVERYWHERE we went, my parents had to announce to everyone – the check out girl at JC Penney, the waiter at Denny’s, every employee at the mall, for that matter – that we live in Africa. As if, by simply looking at us they couldn’t already tell that we were not “from these parts”!


Adjusting to America was painful. As I sat in my math class at Jackson Middle School in South Bend, Indiana the only voice ringing in my head – as the boys ruthlessly made fun of my wild, multi-colored floral Palmetto jeans – was my mom’s, emphatically drilling the words, “Nine, Ninety-nine!” into the heads of my sister and me as we were shopping at the outlet mall for school clothes. We were on a tight budget and the maximum amount of money we were allotted to spend on anything was, “Nine, Ninety-nine!” To this day, when I am out shopping, I still hear my mom chanting, “Nine-Ninety-nine!” It’s insane.


Kids would talk about T.V. shows or some pop culture trivia that I was completely clueless about, and I would just sit silently. Nobody wants to hear about the Kikuyu woman who died during one of our church services, and after a bunch of people ran over and laid hands on her during worship, she came back to life and started pounding on a drum and jumping up and down. Stories like that just weren’t “cool”. Or the time we were driving out to another Kikuyu church and had to stop our car so that a herd of elephant could cross the street (elephants have the right of way!). And the countless stories of the obnoxious hawks (kites) that would swoop down during lunch time at school and snatch the food right out of our hands…well, who really cares about that?


Nobody wanted to hear the story about the time a bat flew up and hit me on my bare rear end while on a school camping trip. Or about the camel safari that left me constipated for a week. Or the time I got malaria. Or when my foot was only a few inches away from stepping on a coiling cobra. Or when my sister and I were on a safari in Swaziland and were chased by a herd of elephant…on foot (we forgot to give them the right of way)! Oh no…the American kids wanted to hear stories from the guy who spent a few weeks of his summer working in Detroit. Detroit! Are you kidding me? But alas, perhaps it was God’s gentle way of keeping me humble so that all my “experiences” wouldn’t go to my head.


Of course, the time I actually did open my mouth to say something it turned me into a “freak”. I asked the girl occupying the desk beside me if I could borrow a “rubber” – which, by the way, in Africa a “rubber” is an “eraser”…just clarifying. Of course, you can only imagine the uproar of laughter that sprung up in the classroom – filled with twenty junior high boys! All I could think was, “what did I say?”


I was “That Girl From Africa”. Not Meryl Streep from “Out Of Africa” – I could only wish – but “That Girl…” That shy little girl, who so desperately wanted to belong and be just like everybody else, but whose parents had to follow the call of God so that I could grow up in an exotic, life-transforming place called…Africa.


(End Part One.)

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3 Responses to “Africa, Bats and “Goat City” Smells (Part One)”

  1. [...] Growing up in Kenya, I was an American living in Africa.  With as much exposure I had to the culture of that country, I was never a Kenyan.  When we returned to the States, my homeland, I could relate to a small degree with peers my age, but felt like a duck out of water 90% of the time.  [...]

  2. DrieCulturen says:

    Hi Amy, I like this post. I can really relate to it. I’m Dutch but was born and bred in Africa (Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe). We did visit Kenya once or twice. When I went to university in the Netherlands I encountered the same things you describe. No one is waiting to hear your stories, the climbing of mountains and having to be very careful not to step on a lazy puffadder snake basking in the sun etc. I hope you have now found people who do want to listen to your story!

  3. Amy says:

    Thank you! It definitely took some time to adjust to life and culture in the United States. I’m in my late 30’s now with three children, and I would have to say that they are my most captivated audience for sure! They love my stories. :) One day I hope to take my family to Kenya. Some stories are hard to comprehend until you’ve actually been there and have experienced it first hand.

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